Can Food Insecurity Be Reduced in the United States by Improving SNAP, WIC, and the Community Eligibility Provision?

Adequate nutrition is essential to children’s rapidly developing brains and bodies. Lack of resources can lead to inadequate access to sufficient food (food insecurity). Fortunately, the United States has programs to provide children and families with nutritional support. Using simulation modeling, we identify three policies that ensure young children have reliable access to food. (i) If SNAP benefits are increased by basing benefit calculations on the Low Cost Food Plan (vs. the Thrifty Food Plan), participant families with children have an 8 percent increase in food purchasing power, and 5.31 percent of food-insecure people in those families become food secure. (ii) If WIC age-eligibility is increased from age 5 years to 6 years, 1.47 percent of newly eligible 5-year-olds’ families increase their food purchasing power, and become food secure. (iii) Through school meal programs under current Community Eligibility Program (CEP) criteria, 3.17 percent and 3.77 percent of all children whose family food purchasing power is increased by participation in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, free and reduced-price meals respectively, shift into higher income-to-poverty-ratio categories. Consequently, 3.23 percent of food-insecure School Meals participants’ families became fully food secure. If CEP eligibility criteria increase, these improvements are jeopardized.